Outgoing defense minister Avigdor Liberman addresses soldiers during a farewell tour of the Gaza border region, November 16, 2018 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
By Judah Ari Gross for TimesOfIsrael.com, Nov 16 2018 –
In a final shot as defense minister, Avigdor Liberman on Friday lambasted his former colleagues in the security cabinet, saying they’d “effectively” given the leaders of the Hamas terror group “immunity” during this week’s intensive round of violence.
“It simply makes no sense that after Hamas launches some 500 rockets at Israeli communities outside Gaza, at the south of the country, the heads of Hamas effectively get immunity from the Israeli security cabinet,” he said during a farewell visit to the south.
Liberman, who tendered his resignation on Wednesday, also warned that Israel’s policies toward Gaza were threatening to allow the Hamas terror group — considered by the Israel Defense Forces to be a comparatively minor strategic threat in terms of raw military power — to become akin to Lebanon’s mighty Hezbollah terrorist army, which is seen as the Jewish state’s main rival in the region with an arsenal of over 100,000 mortar shells, rockets and missiles.
“We are currently feeding a monster, which if we don’t stop its rearmament and force-building — in a year we will get a twin to Hezbollah — with all that entails,” he said.
Officials assess the damage to a house after it was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, Israel, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018.
Liberman made his remarks on Friday afternoon, hours before his tenure as defense minister came to an end, following meetings with officers and soldiers from the IDF’s Gaza Division and with civilian security officials from the communities near the Gaza Strip.
On Wednesday Liberman announced he was resigning as defense minister — a position he’s held since May 2016 — specifically citing the government’s policies toward Gaza and its rulers Hamas as the main reasons why.
The defense minister’s resignation came a day after a de facto ceasefire went into effect, ending a 25-hour flareup that saw the largest-ever barrage of rockets and mortar shells fired at southern Israel, killing one and injuring scores more.
“For the past two and a half years, I have bit my tongue. I tried to change things from within, but the last two decisions — on the transfer of $90 million to Hamas over the next six months and the decision on the ceasefire — these were two decisions that went too far,” he said.
Liberman was referring to a decision to allow Qatar to send funds into Gaza, which was meant to pay salaries of Palestinian civil servants in the Strip — after the Palestinian Authority decided to withhold those funds in a bid to punish its rival Hamas.
Earlier this month, the first batch of Qatari funds — $15 million — was brought into Gaza, which was seen as embarrassing for the Israeli government when pictures of the cash in suitcases were released to the media.
On Friday Liberman said “the moment the money crosses the border with the Strip, there is no oversight of it.”
He added, “It is purely $15 million of terror funding.”
The outgoing defense minister noted that the first people to receive payments from the Qatari funds were families of Palestinians killed during clashes with Israeli troops on the Gaza border, not civil servants.
In the months prior to the flareup, Liberman had repeatedly and publicly called for a military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, claiming it was the only way to return calm to the communities in southern Israel, which have periodically been pummeled by fusillades of rockets and mortar shells.